The House of Lords rejected proposals on Monday that would allow the period of pre-charge detention in terrorism cases to be extended up to 42 days.
Amnesty International welcomed the House of Lords’ vote, by 309 votes to 118, and called on the UK government to respond by abandoning once and for all these misconceived proposals.
“Today’s vote should mark a turning point in the UK’s approach to the question of terrorism,” said David Edwards, Amnesty International researcher on the UK. “Rather than seeking to extend further and further the length of time for which people can be held without being charged with any offence, the UK should recognize that the dangerous notion that security can be bought at the expense of individual rights has been thoroughly discredited. Security and human rights are not – and never have been – mutually exclusive.
“Although today’s vote is a crucial and welcome development, it by no means marks the end of the rigorous scrutiny which the Counter-Terrorism Bill requires. It is vital that the attention given to the pre-charge detention proposals should not allow other deeply concerning elements of the Bill to pass unchallenged.”
Amnesty International has drawn attention, in particular, to sections of the Bill relating to coroners’ inquests. These sections, if enacted, would allow a government minister to order that part of an inquest should be held in secret, in the absence of the family of the person whose death is being investigated, whenever a minister thinks it in the ‘public interest’ to do so.
“Coroners’ inquests in the UK have a vital role to play in investigating deaths in violent or suspicious circumstances, including deaths for which it is alleged that agents of the state are responsible. These proposals would seriously undermine the ability of inquests to conduct the full and independent investigations which are needed,” said David Edwards.
The House of Lords is expected to vote on the proposals relating to coroners’ inquests later this week.